Review-Chronicle of Human Rights Violations in Belarus in January 2011
of the year was marked with the ongoing repressions all over the country following
the mass action which was held in the center of Minsk in the evening of 19 December to protest
against rigging the results of the presidential election. Searches and
interrogations at the KGB, sanctioned within the framework of the investigation
into the criminal case under Article 293, "mass riot" continued
non-stop in January. Criminal and administrative persecution was used not only
towards participants of the peaceful action, but also towards representatives
of the civil society and independent media, despite a wide international
response and the demands of the EU and the US to urgently stop reprisals
At the same time, the state media held a campaign on discredit of the opposition. In particular, on 9 January the 1st channel of the Belarusian TV aired the film Square – Iron against Glass, dedicated to post-election events. As it was stated in the film, the beating of candidate Niakliayeu had been organized by his rivals, the people who had stormed the Government House had no relation to the Belarusian security services and the opposition had tried to make a state overturn.
On 14 January, the pro-governmental newspaper Sovetskaya Belorussiya started a series of "unmasking publications" about the opposition, "Behind Curtains of One Conspiracy" to prove the voiced accusations. The articles were reprinted by other state editions, including Narodnaya Hazeta, Zviazda and Respublika.
Human rights defenders stated that these publications violated the presumption of innocence (because the investigation continued in a closed regime and all figurants of the criminal case were warned against disclosing any circumstances the case). The information which was used for these publications was obtained by the KGB in an unlawful way. These publications witnessed that security services had maintained a total surveillance over activities of political leaders, activists, journalists and human rights defenders – read their e-mails, bugged phones, etc. Many figurants of the articles stated that the published information didn't correspond to reality.
The number of the searches and interrogations that concerned civil activists all over the country exceeded 150. Nevertheless, civil actions of protest continued. Its participants demanded that the authorities stopped repressions and released the political prisoners.
On 17 January the second search was conducted at the office of the Human Rights Center Viasna. Officers of security services confiscated a laptop and certain documents. The same day, searches were conducted in the apartment and in the summer residence of Ales Bialiatski, Chair of Viasna. On 19 January KGB officers searched the office of the Center for Human Rights and the apartment of its Chair, Raisa Mikhailouskaya, and confiscated computers. Pressurization of the Belarusian Helsinki Committee continued as well.
On 10 January the information and public relation department of the Minsk police stated that in the process of investigation into the case under Article 293, part 1 and 2, "Mass riot", the preliminary investigation bureau of the Main Police Department of the Minsk City Executive Committee identified more than 120 people who had taken an active part in the 19 December action in Nezalezhnasts Square in Minsk.
HRC Viasna managed to ascertain the surnames of 42 accused and 12 suspects in the case. Thus, the total number of the people prosecuted within the framework of the case became 54.
On 11 January Amnesty International declared 16 of them prisoners of conscience and urged the Belarusian authorities to release those who were accused of "organization of the mass riot". The United Civil Party, in its turn, called on the AI to grant the status of political prisoners to all figurants of the criminal case. The Young Front also addressed the organization to declare prisoners of conscience the YF leader Zmitser Dashkevich and the head of its Minsk organization Eduard Lobau who were kept in custody on charges of "malignant hooliganism" (Article 339 of the Criminal Code).
On 20 January the European Parliament adopted a tough resolution on the situation in Belarus. It states that the Presidential elections of 19 December 2010 failed to meet international standards of free, fair and transparent elections and were accompanied with numerous and serious irregularities reported by OSCE/ODIHR. That's why the European Parliament called that new elections were held on the free and democratic conditions according to the OSCE standards.
The European Parliament also called on the Council, the Commission and the high representatives of the EU to review the policy towards Belarus and consider imposing economic sanctions, and to support, with all financial and political means, the efforts of Belarusian civil society, independent media and non-governmental organisations in Belarus to promote democracy and oppose the regime.
Some accused on the 19 December "mass riot" criminal case were released from jail on the eve of the final consideration of the Belarusian issue by the Foreign Ministers of the EU countries on 31 January. Thus, the restraint was changed to a written non-leave recognizance for Andrei Kobets, the head of A.Sannikau's electoral headquarters, Natallia Radzina, editor of the socio-political website Charter'97, and Siarhei Vazniak, editor of the Tovarishch newspaper and an electioneering agent of Uladzimir Niakliayeu. On 29 January restraint was also changed to home arrest under guard for presidential candidate Uladzimir Niakliayeu and A.Sannikau's wife, journalist Iryna Khalip.
As it is said in the KGB press-release of 29 January, "Being guided by the results of earlier investigative actions and having established the main circumstances of the criminal case concerning the mass riot, the role of each of the accused and their behavior, the investigation, on consent of the procuracy, decided to change the restraint to U.Niakliayeu, A.Korban, A.Paulau, U.Kobets and S.Vazinak. Apart from this, the restraint is changed for I.Khalip and N.Radzina for these and other reasons." (The UCP members Aleh Korban and Anatol Paulau were released as early as 7 January).
On 31 January the EU Foreign Affairs Council made a political decision concerning the situation in Belarus. Only political sanctions were applied. 157 Belarusian officials were put on the list of the people who were responsible for human rights abuses during the presidential campaign, including: Aliaksandr Lukashenka, his sons Viktar and Dzmitry Lukashenka, the Chair of the Central Election Commission Lidziya Yarmoshyna, the Defence Minister Yury Zhadobin, the Chair of the Security Council Leanid Maltsau, the KGB Chair Vadzim Zaitsau, the Head of the Presidential Administration Uladzimir Makei, the Prosecutor General Ryhor Vasilevich, the speaker of the lower chamber of the parliament Uladzimir Andreichanka and the chairpersons o 24 territorial election commissions, 30 judges, 10 journalists of state-owned media, etc. These people were banned entry to the EU territory and their accounts and assets in the EU countries were blocked. According to the decision, the list is open and can be reviewed.
On 31 January the US also applied sanctions towards Belarus. However, unlike the EU, the United States didn't confine itself to visa sanctions and renewed the economic sanctions towards the Belarusian enterprises Polatsk-Shklovalakno (Polatsk Fiberglass) and Lidskaya Lakafarba (Lida Laquer Paint) and extended the list of the persons who were banned entry to the US. According to the official representative representative of the US Department of State, Philip Crowley, the entrance to the US will be closed for the families of the people involved in the dispersal of the 19 December action and the following repressions in Belarus.
1. Freedom of association
On 12 January the Ministry of Justice issued a written warning to the Belarusian Helsinki Committee for "presenting biased information to international organizations". The reason was that the BHC had informed Gabriela Knaul, the UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, about the pressurization on the part of the state against the lawyers who defended suspects and accused on the "mass riot" case, and about other facts of persecution and intimidation in Belarus. At first the Ministry proposed the BHC to present to it the text of the communication, then – to revoke it, and eventually issued the organization with an official warning, accusing it with the discredit of the Republic of Belarus.
2. Politically motivated criminal cases
On 1 January it became known that the Young Front Chair, Zmitser Dashkevich, and another Young Front activist, Eduard Lobau, detained on 18 December, were transferred to prison #8 in Zhodzina. On 6 January they got charges under Article 339, part 3 of the Criminal Code, "Hooliganism". According to the investigation, the political activists had groundlessly beat two unidentified persons in Minsk.
Lobau's mother learned that on 13 January two KGB officers who refused to introduce themselves asked the activist about his activities in the Young Front. They threatened him with transfer to another prison and physical abuse when he refused to talk to them. As it is known from Z. Dashkevich's letter, he was interrogated concerning the "mass riot" case and was proposed to testify against other members of his organization.
HRC Viasna managed to ascertain the surnames of 42 accused and 12 suspects in the criminal case under Article 293, "mass riot".
- Aliaksandr Arastovich – electioneering agent of M.Statkevich (is kept in the pre-trial prison of the KGB)
- Aliaksandr Atroshchankau –
press-secretary of A.Sannikau's electoral team
(is kept in the pre-trial prison of the KGB)
- Zmitser Bandarenka – a coordinator of the civil campaign European Belarus (is kept in the pre-trial prison of the KGB)
- Artyom Breus – citizen of the Russian Federation (is kept in the pre-trial prison in Valadarski Street)
- Dzmitry Bulanau – served 10-day arrest (is kept in the pre-trial prison in Valadarski Street)
- Andrei Dzmitryieu – Chair of the electoral team of U.Niakliayeu. On 3 January he was released from jail on a written undertaking not to leave.
- Aleh Fedarkevich – participant of the action (is kept in the pre-trial prison in Valadarski Street)
- Aliaksandr Fiaduta – political scientist, a coordinator of the electoral team of U.Niakliayeu (is kept in the pre-trial prison of the KGB)
- Ivan Gaponov – citizen of the Russian Federation
- Artsiom Hrybko – served 10-day arrest for participation in the 19 December protest, on 12 January detained as an accused in the mass riot case, currently in custody in the pre-trial prison at Valadarski Street.
- Siarhei Kazakou – an activist of the European Belarus , detained on 27 January as a suspect in the mass riot criminal case, currently in custody in the pre-trial prison in Valadarski Street.
- Iryna Khalip – journalist, wife of Andrei Sannikau, previously in custody in the KGB prison, since 29 January under house arrest.
- Uladzimir Khamichenka – served 15-day arrest. In custody.
- Ales Kirkevich – a Hrodna activist of the Young Front, served 10-day arrest for participation in the 24 December solidarity rally, on 28 January detained as a suspect in the mass riot criminal case, currently in custody in the pre-trial prison of the KGB.
- Aliaksandr Klaskouski – former policeman (in custody in the pre-trial prison of the KGB).
- Uladzimir Kobets – the head of the electoral team of Andrei Sannikau, on 26 January released on recognizance not to leave.
- Aleh Korban – a leader of the youth organization of the United Civil Party, Young Democrats. On 7 January was released on recognizance not to leave.
- Aliaksandr Kviatkevich – served 12-day arrest for participation in the 19 December rally, detained on 4 January as a suspect in the 19 December mass riot case, officially charged, currently in custody in the pre-trial prison of the KGB.
- Anatol Liabedzka – Chair of the United Civil Party. Is kept in custody in the pre-trial prison of the KGB.
- Mikita Likhavid – an activist of the For Freedom. On 21 February the verdict for 15-day administrative arrest was abolished and he was made an accused in the case. Is kept in custody in the pre-trial prison in Valadarski Street.
- Uladzimir Loban – served 10-day arrest, officially charged in the mass riot case. Is kept in custody in the pre-trial prison in Valadarski Street.
- Aliaksandr Malchanau – a participant of the 19 December action from Barysau. Is kept in custody in the pre-trial prison in the pre-trial prison of the KGB.
- Siarhei Martsaleu – the head of the electoral team of Mikalai Statkevich. Is kept in custody in the pre-trial prison of the KGB.
- Dzmitry Miadzvedz – served 10-day arrest, detained in mass riot criminal case, officially charged under parts 1 and 2 of Article 293. Is kept in custody in the pre-trial prison in Valadarski Street.
- Aliaksei Mikhalevich – presidential candidate. Is kept in custody in the pre-trial prison of the KGB.
- Uladzimir Niakliayeu – presidential candidate, previously in custody, since 29 January under house arrest.
- Dzmitry Novik – a participant of the 19 December action. Is kept in custody in the pre-trial prison in Valadarski Street.
- Nasta Palazhanka – Deputy Chair of the Young Front. Is kept in custody in the pre-trial prison of the KGB.
- Vasil Parfiankou – an activist of the electoral team of Uladzimir Niakliayeu. In custody in the pre-trial prison in Valadarski Street.
- Anatol Paulau – electioneering agent of Yaraslau Ramanchuk. On 7 January was released on recognizance not to leave.
- Andrei Pazniak - was fined about $350, after the New Year vacations was placed to the pre-trial prison in Valadarski Street and presented charges under Article 293 of the Criminal Code.
- Natallia Radzina – journalist, editor of the website charter97.org, previously in custody, on 28 January released on recognizance not to leave.
- Vital Rymasheuski – presidential candidate, released on recognizance not to leave.
- Andrei Sannikau – presidential candidate. Is kept in custody in the pre-trial prison of the KGB.
- Pavel Seviarynets – electioneering agent of Vital Rymasheuski. Is kept in custody in the pre-trial prison of the KGB.
- Mikalai Statkevich – presidential candidate. Is kept in custody in the pre-trial prison of the KGB.
- Illia Vasilevich – served 10-day arrest, on 12 January detained for 3 days as a suspect in mass riot criminal case, currently in custody in the pre-trial prison in Valadarski Street.
- Siarhei Vazniak – electioneering agent of Uladzimir Niakliayeu, on 29 January released on recognizance not to leave.
- Pavel Vinahradau - an activist of the civil campaign Speak Truth, received charges under Article 293, part 1 & 2 on 11 January, currently in custody in the pre-trial prison in Valadarski Street.
- Uladzimir Yaromenak – an activist of the Young Front. Served 15-day arrest for participation in the solidarity action of 20 December, and spent 7 more days in the delinquents’ isolation center following an interrogation at the KGB as a witness in the criminal case. On 28 January detained as a suspect in the case and presented official charges. Is kept in custody in the pre-trial prison in Valadarski Street.
Suspects in the criminal case upon Article 293, parts 1 and 2 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus, ‘mass riot’
1. Dzimitry Apishau -
served 11-day arrest. On 31 December was declared a suspect. On 6 January his
apartment was searched. Currently under a written recognizance not to leave.
2. Anton Davydzenka – detained as a suspect in the criminal case after serving 10-day arrest, previously in custody for 2 days, on 31 December released on recognizance not to leave
3. Aleh Hnedchyk – in custody between 6 and 9 January, interrogated as a suspect in the criminal case (gave a written recognizance not to leave)
4. Usevalad Kavalenka – a possible suspect in the criminal case, served 15-day arrest (gave a written recognizance not to leave)
5. Ryhor Kastusiou – presidential candidate (gave a written recognizance not to leave)
6. Siarhei Kliuyeu – informed about his status as a suspect on 3 January, after serving 15-day arrest (gave a written recognizance not to leave)
7. Mikita Krasnou – his status as a suspect in the case was mentioned in the search warrant presented by KGB officers on 27 December (currently abroad)
8. Andrei Mikalayeu - detained in the evening of 11 January after a search in his house, put to the detention center in Akrestsin Street. Was released on 14 January under a written recognizance not to leave.
9. Leanid Navitski – an electioneering candidate of Andrei Sannikau (currently abroad)
11. Dzmitry Uss – presidential candidate (gave a written recognizance not to leave)
12. Aliaksandr Vasileuski – served 15 days, on 12 January detained at home as a suspect in the mass riot criminal case, released on 14 January.
On 9 January Maksim Dashuk, a
figurant of the "Process of 14", was arrested, allegedly for
"violation of the regime of the penalty" (as it is stated in the
arrest warrant, dated 24 December 2010).
3. Freedom of word and the right to impart information
On 10 January officers of the Barysau District Police Department searched the editorial office of the private socio-political newspaper Borisovskiye Novosti and the apartment of the editor. The searches were sanctioned by the Minsk Region KGB department and were conducted within the framework of the investigation into the 19 December "mass riot" case. As a result, the police confiscated 12 computers (together with computer displays, keyboards and mice), 3 faxes, a scanner, 3 photo cameras, memory cards, CDs and the personal laptop of A.Bukas. Nevertheless, the editorial board got new equipment and managed to issue its next edition.
On 12 January, the airplay of the
independent FM radio station Avtoradio was stopped by decision No.
188/11 of the National commission on TV and radio broadcasting, dated 11
January 2011 and signed by its Chair, Information Minister Aleh Praliaskouski.
The ruling was motivated by the alleged failure of Avtoradio to
implement the stated creative concept and broadcasting "public calls to extremist
activities". However, no details were provided to support these
accusations. According to the chief editor of the radio station, Yury Bazan,
the reason for the liquidation of the radio station is the broadcasting of the
electoral materials of the presidential candidates U.Niakliayeu and A.Sannikau.
Avtoradio lodged a claim with the Supreme Economic Court against the
annulment of its license. Before this, Avtoradio had been closed in 1995
and resumed its work four years after.
On 12 January KGB searched the apartments of Andrei Pachobut, a journalist for the Polish Gazeta Wyborcza, and Aliaksei Salei, photo correspondent for Glos z-nad Niemna, and confiscated from them information carriers. A.Pachobut was guarded to the KGB and then – to the Kastrychnitski District Police Department of Minsk, where he spent the night. The following day, on 13 January, the Kastrychnitski District Court of Minsk continued considering the administrative case of A.Pachobut that had been returned to the police for revising the previous time. As a result, the defendant was fined 1,750,000 rubles (about $580) for participation in the unauthorized action of 19 December. On 18 January the Kastrychnitski District Procuracy appealed the verdict. As a result, on 28 January the Minsk City Court abolished the previous verdict and returned the case for the second trial.
On 13 January the apartment where the residence of an independent journalist, member of the Belarusian Association of Journalists Katsiaryna Tkachenka is registered, was searched in hear absence. As a result, the door lock was damaged and a computer modem was confiscated. K.Tkachenka appealed the unlawful actions at the procuracy.
On 14 January the Council of the Belarusian Association of Journalists adopted a statement demanding to urgently release the members of the organization who were kept under arrest; to stop persecution for expression of opinions; to return the confiscated equipment and information carriers to journalists and media.
On 17 January the Narodnaya Volia newspaper was issued with the third warning within the year. The warning is signed by the Information Minister, Aleh Praliaskouski. The reason for the warning is the article "Who will hear the "Retire!" slogan?" concerning the appropriate action of the Young Front, published in a September edition.
On 18 January Barys Haretski, a correspondent with Radio Racyja, detained near the KGB building while taking interviews from relatives of political prisoners, was sentenced to 14 days of arrest. The Maskouski District Court of Minsk found the journalist guilty of participation in the unauthorized action of 19 December. The apartments of B.Haretski and his brother were searched. On 24 January the Minsk City Court turned down the cassation appeal against the verdict of the Maskouski District Court. The arguments of his counsel and the written confirmation that B.Haretski had worked for Radio Racyja during the 19 December action, were ignored by both courts.
On 20 January after his return from a forced vacation, the host of the talk-show Vybar at the ONT channel Siarhei Darafeyeu was banned from working on the air. The reason was that he had asked some "inconvenient" questions to Lidziya Yarmoshyna, Chair of the Central Election Commission, during the last issue of his program, which was broadcast live and was dedicated to results of the presidential election. Yarmoshyna had demonstratively left the studio, referring to a great workload. The following day Darafeyeu's work was criticized by A.Lukashenka, and the former disappeared from the air of the state TV. On 31 January the talk-show Vybar was replaced with the socio-political program Open Format, with other hosts. The first program was dedicated to the presidential election and the post-election situation. Of course, the new program praised the authorities.
The European Commission for Democracy through Law (Venice Commission) concluded that the warning issued to the Belarusian Association of Journalists by the Justice Ministry in the beginning of 2010 contradicts to several articles of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the European Convention on Human Rights. The appropriate information appeared at the website of the Venice Commission on 12 January.
4. Persecution of civil and political activists
On 4 January the board of the Ministry of Justice upheld the decision of the Qualification commission on advocatory practice in the Republic of Belarus on annulment of the license to Valiantsina Busko, a lawyer of the Hrodna Regional Bar. The reason for the disbarment is "violation of the present legislation, which manifested in participation in the unauthorized demonstration of 19 December 2010 which resulted in mass riot and harm to state institutions". Before this, the lawyer had served 10-day arrest for it.
Moreover, the board of the Justice
Ministry considered activities of some counsels who defended participants of
the protest actions of 19-20 December. In particular, the board decided to draw
Pavel Sapelka, A.Sannikau's counsel, to disciplinary punishment.
According to information of the Committee to Protect Repressed Persons Solidarity, the number of politically motivated dismissals from work and expulsions from educational establishments increased after the events of 19 December. In particular, 11 people were dismissed from work, 2 students of polytechnics and 1 student of the Belarusian State Pedagogical University were expelled, 61 other students who had taken part in the protest action faced the threat of being expelled as well.
On 19 January about 20 people were guarded to the Tsentralny District Police for participation in the action of solidarity with the imprisoned participants of the 19 December action. They were detained on the way to the KGB building. Portraits of the political prisoners were snatched from them. Those who managed to get to the place of the picket, lit candles. The action continued for about an hour, despite the tense atmosphere. At the same time, candles were lit and put near the St. Symon and Alena Church. People kept coming to the monument to Archangel Michael during the whole evening. They sang "God Almighty" and went to the church. Valery Siadou said "Set him free!" and put a portrait of the political prisoner M.Statkevich near the candles and made some highly critical remarks about the present regime, was detained and sentenced to 12 days of imprisonment. Two of the people who were detained for participation in the action, Kiryl Kudrou and Mikita Valadzko, were sentenced to pay a fine of 1,050,000 rubles (about $350). The rest were released.
On 20 January the Maskouski District Court of Minsk sentenced the Young Front activist Uladzimir Yaromenak to 7 days of arrest for participation in the post-election action. Before this, the activist had served 15-day arrest for participation in the solidarity action in Nezalezhnasts Square on 20 December. He wasn't released after serving the second arrest term. Instead, he was placed to the pre-trial prison of the KGB as a suspect in the "mass riot" criminal case.
On 20 January the Navapolatsk Town Court fined the local activists Aliaksandr Kalintsau and Viktar Kalesnik, who had put a large transparency "Freedom to Political Prisoners!" and portraits of prisoners near the pre-trial prison of the KGB. V.Kalesnik, who used to be an electioneering agent of Andrei Sannikau, was declared the organizer of the action and fined 700,000 rubles (about $230), and A.Kalintsava – 70,000 rubles (about $23).
On 21 January the Maskouski District Court sentenced an activist of the United Civil Party, Usevalad Shasaryn, to 9 days of arrest. Earlier he had been twice summonsed for interrogations concerning the events of the 19 December. After the second interrogation he was detained and a report under Article 23.34 of the Code of Administrative Offences was drawn on him.
On 21 January a programmer and poet Andrei Filipchyk was detained during the live broadcast of Lukashenka's inauguration on Kastrychnitskaya Square. His "guilt" was that he smiled looking on the big display installed on the square. The police charged him with the use of obscene language, and the Tsentrlany District Court fined him 525,000 rubles (about $175).
On 28 January in Navahradak, three members of the Belarusian Christian Democracy, Daryia Bakhar, Uladzimir Kachahur and Siarhei Vouchak, were issued with official warnings and fined 210,000 rubles (about $70) each for organization of an unauthorized action and failure to come to the procuracy.
On 29 January a member of the United Civil Party Aliaksandr Siarheyenka, who was to run for the position of the Chair of its youth organization, Young Democrats, didn't come to the assembly of the latter. As it was found later, he was detained and put in the delinquents' isolation center in Akrestsin Street. On 31 January the Maskouski District Court of Minsk sentenced him to 7 days of arrest for participation in an unauthorized action.
Late in the evening of 28 January Tsimafei Atroshchankau, brother of Aliaksandr Atroshchankau, received a telephone call. Somebody allegedly wanted to meet him and tell something about Aliaksandr, who is still kept in the pre-trial prison of the KGB as an accused in the 19 December "mass riot" criminal case. Tsimafei went to the meeting and didn't return from it. The following day it became known that he was taken to the delinquents' isolation center in Akrestsin Street. On 31 January the Maskouski District Court of Minsk sentenced him to 9 days of arrest for participation in an unauthorized action.
On 31 January the Tsentralny District Court of Minsk handed down verdicts to participants of the action of solidarity held near the KGB building in Minsk. Kasia Liudvik, Palina Kuryianovich and Maksim Viniarski were sentenced to 10 days of arrest. Maryna Adamovich, Zmitser Boika and Aliaksnadr Iuleu were fined 1,050,000 rubles (about $350) each.